Sometimes society is just all too predictable. As we drift further away from the sex-negative atmosphere that we’ve held onto for many years, aspects of relationships and sex that used to be considered taboo have become more acceptable. Interracial dating and premarital sex were once sneered about in the same fashion of Bronies and tentacle erotica. While you may get a few stares going into public wearing fake hooves on your hands, most of society wouldn’t bat an eye at an interracial couple walking down the street holding hands.
The Domina Kathryn has discussed before (“Spanking Goes Mainstream”) how the act of spanking has gone from being something that was once specific to the the world sado-masocism to its current mainstream status. And now, it seems as though another practice has become popular in and out of bedrooms all over the world.
Dom/sub relationships are popping up in every form of entertainment from TV and movies, to books and music. As laughable as some of us find the Fifty Shades of Grey series, there’s no denying that the books and upcoming film have put the spotlight on similar relationships. The franchise helped pique an interest in kinky bondage in even the most vanilla of couples, but others (besides author E.L. James) have recently brought attention to the dynamic as well.
The Hannah Lux Davis-directed music video for Nicki Minaj’s “Only,” which features Drake, Lil Wayne, and Chris Brown, includes footage of Minaj and other women in the video acting as dominatrixes. The LA Timesdescribed the video as: “Set in a sex dungeon of sorts, Minaj’s army of hot girls tie up and torture equally hot male models in one room as sweaty, hard-bodied dancers gyrate in another.”
As blunt as the summary may seem, it describes the video perfectly. Donning classic leather and latex dominatrix attire, Minaj and the other women tease their sex slaves with whips, chains, and bondage accessories in their torture chamber, much to the sex slaves’ delight.
Of course, it’s not just entertainment outlets that are responsible for dom/sub relationships infiltrating our everyday lives. Just as pole dancing became a popular way to burn calories in the last few years, the latest craze fusing exercise and bedroom play is the fetish fitness class.
According to Jezebel Mistress Anna is making her clients’ fitness regime even more painful with Australia’s only Forced Fitness Fetish Class. The article explained that during classes, “participants enjoy some of the same exercises they’d participate in at a traditional gym, but with a special twist. Lunges and squats become more intense when the clients’ genitals are weighted down and a stint on the rowing machine becomes much more intense when the mistress pulls one along on chains.”
The included video shows her interacting with a group of clients during a typical session. Some of the exercise practices include her ordering them to do sets of pushups, demanding they kiss her boot with each downward movement, performing the child’s pose (a yoga move) while she steps on their hands, and ordering them to do sit ups while requiring them to kiss her ass each time they come up.
While those involved in the community may think of the increased exposure as a positive thing, it could actually prove to be the opposite. In their bondage guide, Adam & Eve notes that those with little to no experience may want to imitate the couples they see in the media while being unaware of how dangerous attempting to do so without the proper knowledge can actually be. “The actors in adult movies are professionals and are surrounded by a lot of people who can give assistance if needed,” they explain. “Some performers have practiced a bondage lifestyle for years and have advanced knowledge.”
Hopefully those interested in experimenting will be smart enough to take it slow initially and abide by all the necessary precautions, or seek the help of a professional. Bondage, domination, and sadomasochism play are all fun and games until someone forgets to choose a safe word.
Robert dons a lifelike bodysuit and throws on a wig and a dress. Transformed into Sherry, Robert joins the living dolls, a group of like-minded men profiled in a new documentary.
When 71-year-old Robert looks in the mirror, which he does often when dolled up, he sees a beautiful blond woman, voluptuous in her yellow halter dress and chunky heels. Her name is Sherry and she passes the time taking selfies in the courtyard of her Orange County mansion and floating topless in the macaroni-shaped pool.Sans costume, Robert (not his real name) is a property developer, recently divorced, and living with his 19-year-old daughter. But when he powders his latex and silicone suit and climbs in, pulling a frozen, doll-faced mask over his head, and throwing on a wig and a dress, he’s Sherry. “That’s me in there,” he says, gazing entranced at his reflection. “That’s one of the things I have to keep telling myself: That’s me inside that female.”Robert is a masker, leading two very different lives: one in the so-called vanilla world of his family and coworkers; another dolled up as a life-size figurine in the privacy of his own home, or, occasionally, out with other cross-dressers and fellow mask-wearers.
Robert will make his American television debut on Tuesday in TLC’s My Strange Addiction: Men in Doll Suits. When I spoke to him last January, before an earlier version of the documentary premiered in Britain, Robert was nervous he’d given too much away. “Could you identify me, you think, if you saw me on the street?” he asked me on the phone.
The TLC film follows Robert and two other men as they attempt to merge their everyday lives with a desire to don lifelike bodysuits and almost cartoonish masks to masquerade as full-figured female dolls. And he has reason to be concerned—masking is one of the last taboos among gender-bending subcultures, misunderstood and alienated even by the cross-dressers Robert goes out with.
Robert began dabbling in cross-dressing 16 years ago, not long after finding some discarded women’s clothes in a rental property. But he hated the way he looked with a face full of makeup and had nearly given it up until he donned his first mask. “I looked in the mirror and didn’t see myself, I saw a fairly attractive woman, and that changed everything for me,” Robert told me.
Then, seven years ago, he purchased a full suit called a FemSkin. It came from a family-owned and -operated business running out of Wildwood, Florida, where Barbie Ramos and her three sons build and deliver $1,800 realistic custom-made skins to clients across the globe.
Robert calls the purchase “a life-changing experience,” and he slips into his FemSkin once a week or so for elaborately costumed photo shoots in his house, which he posts on Sherry’s Facebook page. The novelty of occupying a feminine body never wears off. “It’s still as shocking to look in the mirror and see myself as a female as it was then,” he says.
For the past seven years, dozens of dolls have descended on Minneapolis for the annual “Rubber Doll World Rendezvous,” reveling in a community and acceptance they’re hard-pressed to find at home. “Safety in numbers,” one leather-clad participant says in the documentary. The two-day convention hosts seminars that range from “introducing this activity to spouses, dealing with friends, raising children and addressing strangers,” to “latex repair and maintenance.” At night, they hit the clubs together, posing for pictures with amazed patrons.
John, the convention’s co-organizer, is a father to six girls. They paint his nails and help him dress as he transforms into Jennifer, a towering doll with wavy brown hair and a black leather bodysuit. It’s a bonding experience, he says in the TLC film. But his penchant for being Jennifer has caused trouble in the past. The failure of his first marriage was due in part to the rubber doll habit, his second one has had similar issues, and Child Protective Services have even been called to his house. (They deemed his hobby harmless.) But John, who notes his masculine job as a forklift operator, doesn’t think he should have anything to hide. Like other maskers who have braved the outdoors, he enjoys a turn in the spotlight.
“When I’m in my male mode, out in public I just blend in,” John says in the film. But as a doll, “you become one of the beautiful people—you draw a lot of attention, and attention is not something I’ve had a lot of growing up and at this age.”
Robert, attending his first Rubber Doll World Rendezvous this past year, donned a gold bikini, gold gloves, and a shiny blond wig to greet fellow maskers with whom he’d only had an online relationship until then. Still a scattered and hidden bunch, maskers keep in touch via online social networks such as Doll’s Pride.
For producer Luke Malone, 32, and director Nick Sweeney, 31, the world of dolls and masking is a topic they’ve mulled for six years, fascinated by a popularYouTube account of a masker named Julie. Less than a year ago, the pair, who’ve known each other since attending university together in Sydney, Australia, decided to pursue the little-known subject.
The community of maskers, normally wary of outsiders, warmed quickly to the filmmakers. “A lot of these guys don’t tell anybody—they don’t tell their wives, children, workmates—they’re living with a very closeted secret, so to have somebody come from outside who is interested and intrigued and not at all turned off, they’re hungry just to have an ear to talk to,” Malone says.
They paint his nails and help him dress as he transforms into Jennifer, a towering doll with wavy brown hair and a black leather bodysuit.
Since masking is such a new and unusual lifestyle, they’re viewed as strange even by similar subcultures. The practice is still “very much on the fringes,” says Sweeney. “They say they’re not welcomed by a lot of the LGBT community yet, and I think that’s more to do with unfamiliarity than anything else.”
Even participants in the cross-dressing scene are visibly uncomfortable around the mask because of its horror movie connotations. “Masked, to them, I’m some sort of strange weirdo,” Robert says. And he also struggles to understand his penchant for dressing up. “I wish to hell I knew,” he tells me. “I don’t know what it is, why I started doing it, why I continue doing it, or why it’s become such a compulsion.”
He’d like to refute the stereotype of maskers as perverted or weird. “These are really just regular people trying to live their lives,” he says. But in his own life, he keeps Sherry’s identity hidden away. His own daughter has adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” defense since he revealed his habit last year. “I’d think she’d be interested enough to ask some questions, but she’s never asked even one question,” Robert says.
Some families and significant others, including John’s wife and daughters, are more accepting. Joel, a 28-year-old British masker, has been dressing up—while hiding his suits from his parents—since he was 15. He’s spent some $16,400 on costumes, considering it an extension of another persona. His live-in girlfriend doesn’t seem to mind the unusual hobby, though Joel knows better than to test her acceptance out in the wider world. “I wouldn’t walk 20 steps down the road dressed as a doll,” he says in the film.
But Malone and Sweeney say fears of discrimination were unfounded when they went out with the dolls and a film crew. People “weren’t scared, they were more titillated,” Malone says. Once they were interviewing a doll when a tough-looking man walked past and demanded to know “what the fuck was going on.” Malone, thinking the guy was going to throw a punch, explained the costume. The guy took a long drag on his cigarette. “That’s fucking cool,” he said.
The documentary’s most touching scene is when Robert introduces Sherry to the outside world for the first time, walking around his old stomping grounds of Newport Beach in his full doll getup. “He is beautiful,” one accented passer-by says to the camera. “I know he’s a man, no? Yes, he’s beautiful.”
Robert may still be confused about his hobby and nervous about preserving his anonymity, but he isn’t putting on the brakes anytime soon. “The goal is whenever the hell I’m getting ready to kick the bucket I say, ‘Goddamn it, I’ve done everything that I ever wanted to do and I’m ready.’”
This is an updated version of an article that first appeared on the Daily Beast on January 7, 2014.
Deep in the woods of upstate New York is La Domaine Esemar, the world’s only BDSM training chateau, which services lifestyle kinksters and paying clients in their home dungeon. On a recent trip to the facility, photographer Jessica Lehrman got a peek into a typical day with new owner Mistress Couple: a session with her house slave, Destiny, as well as mistress-in-training protocols with Stella.